Thursday, July 3, 2014

Instructor Level 1 Training and 21 Form Applications

I've been rather lax at writing updates here over the last several months but for good reason - I've been really busy with training, which I'll explain now ...

Last fall there was an ILC workshop with Sam Chin the weekend of December 14th. In the run up to the workshop, I worked on learning the 21 Form to prepare to grade for Student Level 3, which I (along with 2 other of my schoolmates) successfully did.

At that point, I had to decided whether I wanted to start training for Student Level 4 (SL4) or if I wanted to instead train for Instructor Level 1 (IL1). While I don't particularly want to be an instructor, I ultimately decided to train IL1 because it meant studying the applications of the 21 Form and I felt I needed a deeper understanding of the form before moving on; it also helped that my training partner (Rod) was interested in training IL1 for similar reasons. We decided to prepare for the next workshop with Sam Chin, which was scheduled for the weekend of June 21st.

Training IL1 was more challenging then I'd expected. We needed to work on the applications, which involved spending lots of time looking at the 21 Form DVD and trying to figure out what was going on and how to recreate it.

So, in addition to my normal training, Rod and I started getting together several times a week to train, including a couple of hours on Saturday morning. We also went to a 21 Form workshop given by Ashe Higgs in April, a mini-workshop on 21 Form Applications given by Dima Grinberg in May, and I visited Joshua Craig's class in NYC at the end of June (where I also attended a mini-workshop by Dasha Sergeeva).

In February, Rod went to the ILC winter intensive and found out that we needed to lead class for 3 months before grading so, starting in March, we also started to lead our ILC class. Luckily, we had plenty of material from a workshop given by Alex Skalozub in February (and various other workshops we've attended) but it took time to prepare for the classes.

Training applications is difficult, particularly if you don't have previous experience doing so. It means taking all these things you've been training on your own and making them work on a partner - it's a big transition and we didn't go easy on each other. Still, as we worked through the applications, I came to understand the 21 Form a lot better and that has had a big effect on how I do the form.

Master Chin arrived a few days early for the June workshop and in 3 separate sessions (Thursday evening, Friday evening, and Saturday morning) he gave an impromptu 21 Form Applications workshop before the actual workshop. It was a great experience - after all that time working on the form and the applications, getting refinements directly from Sigong was eye-opening and I had the necessary context to understand and absorb what he was teaching.

But, in the end, it wasn't enough. On Sunday morning, Master Chin told me he didn't think I was ready to grade and that I should wait until he returned in December. I'll just say it was a let-down and leave it at that (on the up side Rod did grade successfully and I got to participate in that).

So I'm back where I started in January trying to decide whether to continue the IL1 training or go on to the SL4 training. On the one side, I've accomplished my goal of improving my understanding of the 21 Form so starting SL4 training seems like the way to go. On the other side, after the impromptu applications workshop, Rod and I feel we have a lot more to train now and it's seems a shame to walk away from IL1 after all I've put into it.

In any case, for personal and professional reasons, I've dialed back training to my normal (non-trivial yet sustainable) level. I hope to be ready to grade in December but gaining the skill has always been the goal so I'll just have to evaluate where I'm at when the time comes.

I also have to say that my instructors and fellow students have been incredibly supportive all the way through - its really a privileged to be part of that kind of community.

As a final note, I should mention that applications training has not only improved my 21 Form but has had a profound effect on my Taiji Forms and spinning hands, which I'm only now starting to appreciate.

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